Our Wedding at Bok Tower Gardens

July 23, 2016

The day had arrived. It was April 2nd, 2016. Our wedding day.

The alarm went off at 4:45 – which is actually later than it goes off during the week. An hour later, I was on my way to hair and makeup – chauffeured by my future husband. We crossed the Gandy Bridge and arrived at Stephanie’s studio just a few minutes later. Thomas sat with me while my mom and three girlfriends headed our way. Stephanie teased my hair, and kept me calm. She is so cheerful and happy – even at 6 in the morning. Such a sweetheart.

When my friends and mom arrived, Thomas headed out to get ready himself. The five of us ate some breakfast – almonds, homemade Irish soda bread, and greek yogurt. We caught up – learning about how much each other’s lives had evolved over the past 8 years since we graduated high school (how has it been 8 years?!).

After another hour – we were on our way to Bok Tower. Nichole drove, Brielle controlled the playlist. I sat in the back, taking deep breaths, and watching the clouds.

The drive to Bok Tower is long. It definitely isn’t the most convenient venue, but it is a beautiful spot. The garden was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead and it houses one of the five carillons in the state of Florida (oddly enough, one of the others is at UF (whre we met), and another is right by where Thomas and I work during the week). The garden is filled with huge trees, brimming with Spanish moss. It is a natural garden, and it feels so isolated from the hustle and bustle of every day life.

Before I knew it, I was getting into my dress with my mom’s help. She buttoned each button carefully – and at the end thought she had done them all wrong – but of course she hadn’t. The previous day, she sewed a vintage blue button (I used to collect buttons – I have since moved on to collecting cameras 😉 ) and hand-stitched lace from France that must have been 100 years old into the inner layer of my dress.

From there, it was time for our first look. Thomas was in his position, and I approached him slowly. The grass was damp and green stickies collected on my dress, but I didn’t care. When he turned around we both started crying. Wasn’t expecting that to happen. We gave each other the biggest hugs and just held one another. It felt so good to see him. All of the nerves disappeared.

We spent the next two hours together – running around the gardens, taking photos with our photographers – the awesome Chrissy & Eddie from High Five for Love. They definitely operate differently than Thomas and I – but in a good way. They capture the moments between the moments, and really focus on getting their couples to relax and just snuggle with each other. As if no one is even taking photos.

We started hearing thunder in the distance, and the rain clouds rolled in. We headed back towards the location of the ceremony and our families and friends started to arrive – umbrellas in hand. I scurried to give them hugs and headed back inside to wait for the ceremony.

Sitting inside I could see the rain pouring down through the window. Guests being shuttled by golf carts. I pulled up the radar and it didn’t look like it was getting better any time soon. About 15 minutes or so passed. My mom started to speak, but stopped herself. I urged her to continue. “Your officiant is going to be here the whole day, right?” “Yeah.” “Well, do you think we could move the ceremony back in hopes that the weather will cooperate?”

Umm. Yes. Thomas and I even debated having a “pre-ceremony” cocktail hour when planning our wedding, but with the event being so early in the day we didn’t want to add that increased pressure of having everything set up even earlier to our planner/stylist, so we opted not to. Once the offer was on the table, the decision was made, and I was on my way to the tent to see some of the guests. Needless to say, I started crying pretty immediately. It was surreal. All of these people were there for us. Some guests I hadn’t seen in years – but we had kept in touch through email – and it felt so good to hug them.

Thomas was MIA (apparently running around plugging in extension cords) but cocktail hour began. From there, the day turns into a blur. The rain poured down around us. The poor bartender couldn’t fit under the tent so he was out in the rain, trying to stay dry. The dogs had been crated after enjoying their romp in the mud. Poor pups!

The decorations were beautiful. Cassandra from Ever After Vintage Weddings concepted the whole design. There were four long tables – each with a different theme – travel, photography, dogs, and finance. Two of the tables had a long garland running down, while the others had centerpieces from Carrollwood Florist overflowing with greenery and tulips. Each table was decorated with items associated with the theme. At each place setting was a succulent with a name flag (shout out to KMN Calligraphy!) that sat upon Cassandra’s china. Accompanied by a blush water goblet – it was truly beautiful.

Shane & Emily played the best music. I really can’t say enough positive things about them. They are two of the sweetest individuals – traveling the country in their RV and following their dream. And – to top it off – they just got married! Seriously, go listen to them.

Everyone took their seat and lunch began. Yeah, that’s right, we still weren’t married yet. And my husband-to-be was soaking wet.

When lunch was finished we made the call to have the ceremony right there under the tent. We pushed our sweetheart table to the side, pulled around the microphone, and took a few deep breaths. The processional was shortened quiet a bit due to space constraints. Thomas walked his parents down the aisle, followed by my oldest brother and my mom. Then, me and my dad. Not going to lie, I pretty much tripped and ugly cried down the whole aisle.

The ceremony began, and was officiated by my friend from work, Chelsey. She is a writer. She went to school for creative writing, and about a year ago, she asked me about my business…how I got started and what I had to do as a business owner. She was interested in freelancing. When it came time for Thomas and I to look for an officiant, our favorite one was already booked. I dug around on a few sites, but couldn’t find what I was looking for. Thomas and I really wanted a personalized ceremony – tailored to our story, not just a ceremony that was copied and pasted from multiple sources. I spoke with Chelsey to see if she would be interested in that kind of freelance writing and she jumped on the opportunity. We worked with her to craft the perfect ceremony – that was unique to us. She delivered it flawlessly. We had a “warming of the rings” where everyone at the wedding passed our rings between them. Brandi, Thomas’s sister read a poem called Union, Thomas told the story of how we met, and we exchanged vows as the rain continued to pour on the tent. Chelsey wrote a piece about who we were and what we thought about marriage – and for a brief moment – the sun came out. She then pronounced us husband and wife. We kissed – but didn’t really have an aisle to walk down, so we just stood there and soaked up the view of all of our friends and family. All of the guests erupted. I’m not sure if it was the acoustics in the tent, but it sounded like the loudest applause I had ever heard.

We moved right into our first dance – “Hold My Hand” – a Shane and Emily original. My dad and I danced to “The Way You Look Tonight,” and Thomas and his mom danced to “Forever Young” and they even had a freestyle breakout. 🙂

As we went to cut the cake, the rain let up. We moved the cake outside of the tent (for better light – photographer problems) and cut our wedding cake. It was delicious – I’m so sad I only ate half a piece!! haha

Shortly after the cake was cut, the rain started up again and toasts were delivered. We had “open toasts.” Because we didn’t have a wedding party, no toasts were really prepared, but we wanted to open the floor up to anyone that had something to say. Some beautiful words were shared, along with sweet memories. Thank you all for that.

So, that was our wedding day. Hardly anything went as initially planned (not because of our planner’s doing – just because of the weather – we love you Kimberly!!!), but it was perfectly imperfect. We went with the flow. I’m so grateful that we have been a part of so many weddings, because we recognize the importance of the day, but we also recognize that things go wrong. Because of that, we were truly able to embrace what the day had in store for us and make the most of it. So much of our day was crafted from past weddings we had seen – no wedding party, open toasts, the ring warming, the Union poem, the personalized ceremony, the brunch timeline, the succulents, the polaroid guest book. We’ve been impacted by all of our couples in more ways than one, and they were all there with us in spirit on our day.

The rain poured around us almost all day, but in a way it made the whole day more authentic. Everyone was on our side. No one complained about a thing – the heat, the rain, the mosquitoes…whatever anyone could possibly complain about – they didn’t. Everyone focused on us and the love that we shared – and that was so incredibly special.

Thank you to everyone that made our day wonderful – especially our parents and families. We love you all and couldn’t have done it without you. We appreciate your support more than you know.

I will close with a few sentences that Thomas’s mom wrote to us in our wedding card. “Whoever said the sun makes you happy has never been kissed in the rain on their wedding day. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.”

And a huge shout out to our vendors that worked so hard to make our day fantastic, despite all of the rain. 🙂

Photography: High Five for Love // Dress: The Dressing Room // Veil: Melinda Rose Design // Hair & Makeup: SMP Makeup Artistry // Venue: Bok Tower Gardens // Tent (thank you!): Sunshine Tent Rental // Styling and Rentals: Ever After Vintage Weddings // Band: Shane & Emily // Florist: Carrollwood Florist // Calligraphy: KMN Calligraphy // Day of Coordination: Kimberly Villalba // Officiant: Voice of the Vow // Caterer: Millenia Catering // Beer Selector: Dominic Cador // Invitations: Minted // Earrings: Blue Nile // Suit: Men’s Warehouse

P.S. If you recognize any of our beautiful guests, it is because at least 20 of them have been on our blog at some point. 😉

Wedding earrings from Blue Nile

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warming of the rings Emily & Thomas married at Bok Tower

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